Students and community members of all ages gathered at Whispering Wilderness Healing retreat in Saddle Lake to learn a different lesson about traditional values and kinship. The Adult Literacy program, Family Life Education Program (FLEP) and both high school and junior high school students from Kihew Asiniy Education Centre joined together for three days of learning about traditional life.
“It was developed to promote working together as a community and that is what we are trying to teach our young people,” said Saddle Lake Cree Nation band member Jason Whiskeyjack, who attended the camp. “It is a good outing because it doesn’t involve drugs or alcohol and it encourages respect for Mother Nature.”
Chief of Saddle Lake Cree Nation Eddy Makokis said that it is through cultural camps that the children get an opportunity to hear and learn their language. The camps also help to teach youth respect for culture, elders and ultimately themselves. Learning in traditional settings like the cultural camp and at schools will help youth find their own path to success, explained Makokis.
“By working together we will succeed,” said Makokis. “This is where it all starts.”
Some of the older adult students camped at the site for several days, setting up teepees, attending sweats, ceremonies, doing traditional crafts and eating traditional foods like duck, rabbit and buffalo. The school children were brought to the camp each day by bus. The focus of this year’s cultural camp was kinship and how people are all related.
“There is a disconnect between the generations as to who they are related to so the elders are here today to talk about kinship,” said Wayne Jackson, an instructor with the adult literacy program. He said that one of the more meaningful cultural activities for his students was killing, skinning, quartering and of course eating a buffalo. “They learn about the traditional ways of their grandparents. They learn about community, cooperation and sharing.”
Marilyn Makokis, cultural education director for the Saddle Lake community and one of the coordinators of the event, said that it was very good for the school children.
“We want our children to go back and learn their language and cultural ways of living. This year’s theme, kinship, is how we respected one another in the past, using terms like aunt and uncle, grandparents,” said Marilyn. “We wanted to combine everyone together so that the children could learn ways to communicate better with their own parents and grandparents.”
The cultural camp is one of many annual events on the reserve that celebrate Cree knowledge and traditions.